Tanna Frederick — “Two Ways Home”

Tom Bower in Two Ways Home
Tom Bower in Two Ways Home

Tanna Frederick is best known for her stage and independent film career. However she is also a writer, producer, marathon runner and the founder of “Iowa Independent Film Festival”. She is also co-founded the “Project Save Our Surf”, dedicated to ocean conservation, with a deep connection to surfing.

Her new movie has a lot of personal connections. She has dealt with clinical depression, and her parents also have been involved in the world of mental health, including working with the organization National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI). Tanna took the title of her film to heart and decided to film Two Ways Home in her home state of Iowa with several scenes being shot on her real-life grandfather’s farm. ABILITY Magazine caught up with Tanna after her return from Switzerland where she was shooting her latest indie film. This interview is about Two Ways Home life on the farm and the importance of raising awareness around mental health.

Melinda Chilton: Congratulations on the movie.

Tanna Frederick: Thank you so much!

Chilton: We have something in common. I was born and raised on a farm in Illinois.

Frederick: I saw that! I’m like, “Oh, she’s a small-town girl.” I saw on your IMDb page it talks about how you grew up in a town that was, like, two blocks wide. Oh, girl! She grew up in a small town, too?

Chilton: And my parents still live there on the farm. My dad just turned 81. He still goes up and throws hay down.

Frederick: Oh, my God!

Chilton: And you shot this movie on your grandpa’s farm?

Frederick: I did! I was like, “Oh, so she gets it!” because I just wrapped a movie in Switzerland and now, I’m in a very, very small town in Iowa called Osage and just kind of recouping on a farm—

Chilton: Osage County.

Frederick: —with my dog.

Chilton: Aw!

Frederick: And just chilling, I’ve been in the Alps on this insane film set, and so I still have a house in Iowa in addition to living in LA, and my whole family’s here, too. So, when I get done, too stressed out, I come out here and just hang out.

Chilton: Oh, I know.

Frederick: It’s fall here, the pumpkin patches.

Chilton: Oh, I’m so jealous! I was like, “I’m going home to the farm to recharge my soul, I’ll be back.”

Frederick: Exactly! It’s so necessary, it’s so important, especially when you grew up in this area and you need the chilling out, the fireplaces. But I have the best of both worlds I have a farm in Iowa and live in LA, both. I have two wonderful worlds. I really feel blessed like that.

Chilton: And tall redheads.

Frederick: Oh, yeah, that’s right! That was a cool thing I saw, too. Bravo!

Chilton: Yeah! I ran into Jane Lynch and I told her that the casting director said I was too tall to be an actress. And she’s, like, six feet tall. She was like, “You tell them I said you can do anything.” She was a little more colorful about it.

Frederick: (laughs) Thank you, Jesus, for that!

Chilton: And how tall are you exactly?

Frederick: I’m 5 foot 8.

Chilton: I’m 5 foot 12.

Frederick: Oh, my Lord, I love you! That’s amazing, and a redhead. It’s true, though. There is a lot of casting directors who will be like, “You’re too tall, and you’re a redhead.” Although the red-headed thing is now popular but when I moved out to LA, I remember that they were like, “Sorry, you’re not a blonde or a brunette. Good luck.”

Chilton: Now it’s the redheads.

Frederick: It’s only redheads.

Chilton: Yeah, finally! Let’s talk about the movie, how did you pull this together? What was the start of it?

Frederick: Well, I wanted to film a movie in Iowa using my home state and local talent and local crews and keep it true to the state after moving to California. It was a pet project to utilize the state and showcase the state. That was definitely an objective when I began putting the project together. I had a script from a family friend—it was loosely based on my grandfather, who was a World War II vet, and his difficult cantankerous personality. With several modifications to the script and different iterations, it grew and ended up being a film about something that I had always wanted to cover with a mental health undertone. In terms of the woman confronting bipolar as part of the adversity and the journey that she was on with the grandfather also having PTSD from his World War II experiences. I’ve been so pleased and very elated with the fact that first of all the film is even finished, and then that it’s been doing so fantastic on the festival circuit.

Tanna Frederick
Tanna Frederick in Two Ways Home

Chilton: I have watched the film, and I loved it.

Frederick: Oh, thank you for watching it. Thank you so much.

Chilton: I didn’t know what to expect. I was told we were going to interview an actor/producer. You know how Oprah reads the book for her book club; I watched the movie.

Frederick: Thank you for doing that.

Chilton: I was like, “Oh, my gosh, if I had known it would be this good, I would have had a movie night with popcorn and the works!”

Frederick: Oh, thank you, Melinda!

Chilton: The production value, the acting, the casting, kudos to the casting department. It was so well done. I was extremely impressed. It took me on a journey, a trip. I felt for your character, Kathy. I really felt for Kathy. It was such a raw truth, your performance. How did you approach the character? It really brings it to life. I felt like I was watching a real woman struggling with a real issue in her life.

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Frederick: Thank you so much for saying that. That was what I wanted to portray, a real woman with a real story. Doing that, getting a real person with a real story, it sounds so easy, but it’s so much more difficult than it sounds. It comes down to getting into the specifics of storytelling as far as an actor and a storyteller. The more detailed you can get in a story and in a character’s portrayal of something, I think that’s where it becomes more accessible to people. In this particular character’s story, she’s dealing with bipolar illness, but she’s also dealing with family. I think dealing with mental health issues in a film, you have to mindful. This movie took seven years to complete.

Chilton: No kidding!

Frederick: Yeah, with the budget, with all the in-kind favors that we pulled, it was a labor of love, as many films are. Thank you, Jesus, that it got finished. What I really wanted to do, because I was involved with mental health since I was a kid and the beautiful work that my parents did. I wanted to have something that really broke down some of the stereotypes that have been involved with the stigmatization of mental health in the media. I wanted to have a piece that people walked away from feeling not only proud of what they’ve gone through, but I wanted them to feel more whole as a human being; faced with adversity through confronting mental health disorders, whether it be through their own family or through their own experience with it. I wanted this film to help spark open dialogue within families and within people’s own selves. Playing on the festival circuit, this has been a really cool experience. We just started on our festival roll, so I guess the biggest indicator is, is this creating something artistic that is healing?

At the Q&As people are coming up to me and saying, “Wow, I’ve felt that way. When you looked into the mirror, I felt that character was very authentic and that look, I’ve looked at myself in the mirror and I’ve had that specific look. It’s not something I could express ever in words, but through this film, I understand, I know that feeling.” That’s the neat thing about art, that we can put into pictures what can’t be expressed in words or perhaps with a therapist sometimes. As an artist, I ask myself “How do I create something that will make people walk away feeling empowered and feeling somewhat healed or closer to their family members?” That’s been so important to me, because growing up, I watched so many people feel so ashamed about their condition or people feeling angry about other people’s conditions or people not wanting people living next to them. My parents were involved in in this transition center which they created in northern Iowa, where they would take mentally ill individuals off the street and help to get them into therapy, help to get them on the correct medications, help to integrate them back into a job so that they could be working into apartments, get them back in touch with their relatives if that was at all possible. Watching people I know, watching society cast them out, people not buying houses next to this transition center. And you know, coming from a small town—

Chilton: Right!

Frederick: —how much anger and misunderstanding differences can create was a big eye-opener for me as a kid. So, this has been a goal for me, to create something that could stop this misunderstanding or show a real person dealing with a real thing, which is mental illness.

Chilton: I think you definitely accomplished that with this film!

Frederick: Thank you.

Chilton: What I really loved, what I found interesting about your film—Kathy had bipolar and you see her struggle. You give an honest voice to it. What I found also deeply important was, as you mentioned, she’s surrounded by characters who are trying to also accept that she has this illness and what that means in their lives and how to deal with it. Everything from her daughter to her grandma to the aunt to Junior. I loved the scene between you and Junior in the barn, where he basically has a snap judgment of, “No, I’m not doing this.”

Frederick: Oh, thank you!

Chilton: I see people do that. They look at mental illness and it’s scary, it’s bad, it’s dangerous. Or maybe this person’s just being irresponsible, should get their act together. I grew up with some family members who had mental health issues and I’ve seen when they have the proper medication and are being taken care of and having a loving support system, and I’ve seen it when it’s not. And it’s very different.

Frederick: Absolutely.

Tanna Frederick and father Tom Frederick

Chilton: Mental illness can seem very scary and dangerous. What would you say to people who are having a moment that Junior had in your film, in that barn scene?

Frederick: It’s unfortunate, but it is such a catch-22 in our society, we really are so far away from accepting and recognizing that mental health issues exist and are prevalent, just like diabetes, just like cancer, like hypoglycemia. And then in so many varying degrees. We don’t acknowledge post-partum as much as we should. We don’t acknowledge seasonal affective disorder, the varying degrees of depression, anxiety disorder. They’re just not understood. They’re not as easy to put your finger on in our society as much as something like being lactose-intolerant is. (laughs)

Chilton: Whenever someone has a problem with a mentally ill person and they make them feel guilty for doing something wrong, I’m like, “Would you give this same attitude to a person with breast cancer?”

Frederick: Yeah, exactly. I think that was the most important line in the movie, when the grandfather says, which is great, to have that coming from a grandfather to the granddaughter, saying, “Would you withhold insulin from a diabetic?” That understanding multi-generationally in the movie in that relationship was utilized really, really well on so many different levels. I think also as a kid, throughout high school, I worked in my dad’s pharmacy. I watched different degrees of people who were ashamed to say that they were on medication not just antidepressants, but people who were severely mentally ill. People being so awkwardly devastated from trying different meds, so bravely going through this challenge of trying to find medications and understand their conditions in a society that completely degraded them and their condition. They were coming into the pharmacy and saying, “This is dry mouth. This is not working. I feel so much more myself when I’m off.” To not have the help, the other support of people. I mean, it’s not a matter of congratulations, but in an ideal world, in my ideal world, it would be almost a congratulatory system, like, “Good job! Way to go, way to keep trying to understand what’s going on in your neurotransmitters.”

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Chilton: Exactly. It’s a personal victory for each individual on their journey that should be celebrated.

Frederick: Absolutely. When we’re understanding so much about our own physiology and our diet and our bodies and then we’re just both still not adept at understanding what’s going on in our brains. It’s mind-blowing in a way, not to put down where we’re at as human beings, but it is a little bit shocking.

Chilton: I find it very shocking, right now, where our country’s at today, there’s a lot of talk, a lot of things going on around discrimination at many different levels, against many different groups of people, and I hate to say “groups”. I wish we could just all be one big group together. But what I find ironic about it is discrimination against mental illness. You just can’t deny it. You can discriminate against it all you want, but the fact is that mental illness does not discriminate against anyone. It doesn’t care where you went to school, what color your skin is, what your sexual preference is, what religion you have, where you grew up on it. It wants to come into your home. It will come right in the front door, sit on your couch, and ask for a cup of coffee. (laughs)

Frederick: That’s a wonderful point. In the movie I was happy that we also explored the mental health aspect of post-traumatic stress disorder with World War II. Again, it’s something that only up to, like, five years ago were our veterans from Vietnam recognized, welcomed, which was a huge deal. My dad fought in Vietnam, both my grandfathers were in World War II, and to watch a lot of the vets going through so much PTSD, not only were they confused about where they stood and where people stood with their service, they were still experiencing trauma with loud noises, night sweats, physical and mental repercussions from fighting that war and then finally having the country say, “Thank you for your service. We’re going to start to erect memorials”. And not just that, but in Iowa, my dad—finally they wrote an article about his as well as other vets service, and I remember how much that changed him and changed his mindset. He experienced some physical changes. He went and got counseling. It was a big deal.

Chilton: Wow!

Frederick: But that also takes a lot. It takes a whole village to correct that mental health aspect of PTSD. It’s something that’s so hard to fight by yourself. It’s a fascinating subject, and so even having that in the movie was pretty cool it was neat to watch the grandfather as he started dialoguing about it with himself in the journal. Something as simple as that.

Chilton: Yes. I thought it was really interesting. As I was watching the film, I was taking the whole journey with Kathy, and then you find out that Grandpa Walter has PTSD. I found that really interesting, and really great of the author to put those two together on the same trip. There’s a wonderful scene between Kathy and her grandpa in the bathroom, the one outside, towards the end of the film is so touching and so real. The two characters help each other so much.

Frederick: Thank you so much. It was a really special relationship. I had that relationship with my grandfather with myself dealing with depression. On a strange level, it was myself dealing with depression and my grandfather dealing with PTSD and him being exceptionally closed off. Somehow, we were able to meet on a certain level, which I hope was captured in the movie a little bit, which I think it was, when I looked at it.

Chilton: God bless, your family for serving, and I’m so happy our country’s turning around and welcoming all these troops home and given them the respect and the thank you that we should have been giving them a long time ago.

Frederick: Yeah, me, too.

Chilton: With that said, I remember as a teenager, I was at a lake, at a beach. There was a young woman there, maybe 15 years old. It turned out she had PTSD. She had a seizure, this whole thing, right there on the beach in her swimsuit. I remember she was screaming; it was so sad. I found out later she had a very traumatizing experience when she was about five years old, and she suffers from PTSD because of that. I found it interesting because we think PTSD is primarily soldiers, people who have served in the military, which I think is a big percentage of it, but it’s also people who, like this young girl, something happened in her childhood.

Frederick: Yeah, it can be a car accident, there’s myriad things that create PTSD. I think it comes down to the vocabulary of how you’re wording things, because when you say “mental health,” “Oh, that’s a mental health problem,” people are more reticent to deal with it and recognize it, even with the words “mental health”. They’re perhaps saying, “I met this five-year-old girl and she had—” whatever, she was in an accident, she had an incident when she was five and she was still traumatized. It’s just there’s something attached to even the vocabulary that is used with mental health. But hopefully that’s changing. I feel like it’s changing, and I feel like we’re growing. I don’t think the film would be doing as well as it is without that change or not just my film, but this year particularly, Mental Health Week is coming up. Our film’s playing at the Awareness Festival in LA. In May it was Mental Health Month, I believe. I think there’s a growing cognition of how much change needs to happen. Fingers crossed. I think definitely, it’s getting the attention that it needs. People are becoming more aware of it. I think that’s great. People like you, who are given a voice, getting out there, making people more aware. But I think the more we talk about it, the more people are made aware of it, the easier it is to make that switch, to find a balance.

Chilton: Yeah, yeah.

Frederick: And I was in—not to go too much on a political bent and too far away from the movie, but it’s really great also to see—I was at the Democrat wingding here in Iowa, and it was really great to see some of the candidates talking about our need to address mental health in the school system, too. Once again, it’s not some sort of strange, out-there topic that we’re dealing with. We’re just talking about counselors who will be more available for kids who have myriad issues; bullying—A lot of kids are suffering from that. Or from the school shootings and what kids are suffering from that, how we need to have more people on hand to shape kids. Corey Booker gave a riveting speech about how the call to action right now in our country is to have more mental healthcare available to our teenagers at their most formative part of their lives and how there’s a lack of that right now. I couldn’t agree more. And that falls under mental health as well.

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Chilton: Right. I love to hear that they want to get into the schools and talk to the young kids and all of us, hopefully by putting this subject out on the table for the young kids, the young people to talk about it, to hear about it. When they become adults, maybe that will help lessen that prejudice and fear and judgment around mental issues.

Frederick: Yeah, absolutely. And know that it’s OK to be afraid or it’s OK to feel different. That’s completely natural. It’s OK to feel anxiety. That’s not something you need to hide. That just breeds more fear. And that’s another thing that I hope to accomplish through the film, that this woman, at the end of the film, walks away through her trials and tribulations with her shoulders back and her head high because she faces adversity head-on and was basically just too tired to try to hide it or feel ashamed any more. Her objective was not about saying, “I’m not different,” or “There’s nothing wrong with me.” Her objective was the bigger objective, which was her family, her love for her daughter, her trying to move forward in life. It wasn’t about moving backward it was about moving forward. It made her a stronger, more beautiful woman in the end. It made her quilt fabric more delicious and beautiful to have gone through the ups and downs of dealing with life and who she is as a woman and the emotional ups and downs. That doesn’t make us ugly. And if it does make us ugly, as an artist, the beauty is in the ugliness of life.

Chilton: If everything was beautiful all the time, it would get a little boring.

Frederick: Absolutely!

Chilton: And everyone’s idea of what beauty is is different. There’s beauty in someone who came into your father’s pharmacy and said, “You know what? This medication doesn’t work. I’m ready to try something different. What else can we do?” There’s beauty in that, in someone saying, “I’m OK. Yes, I need help, but I want to figure this out and I’m going to be fighting. There’s something to celebrate about me because I’m fighting for this and I’m going to be OK. I’m standing up for myself.”

Frederick: Absolutely. There’s beauty in recognition of being different and showing vulnerability.

Chilton: It’s who you are. “This is who I am today.” And speaking about the children, I want to talk about Kathy’s daughter Cori, played by Rylie Behr.

Frederick: Yeah, she’s such a—

Chilton: She was fabulous! I don’t know where you found that little girl. She really brought some layers to that character. Tell me about the journey, the importance of having that daughter there. She has quite a journey accepting a few things about her mom. When you’re a little kid, you want your mom to be this perfect Disney princess, and that ain’t gonna happen, no matter who your mom is! (laughs)

Frederick: (laughs) Yeah! Her character was so important for so many reasons. I think in this film especially, when you’re dealing with a real family and a real story that I was trying to bring forth, that takes place in Iowa, that’s not just some horror plex that’s being made, but an actual real story that I wanted to show that I’ve seen people go through. Nothing will be bow-tied and wrapped perfect in the end. The struggle of this 13-year-old, whose mother isn’t perfect, like you said, whose mother is bipolar and is what she makes mistakes but is trying to be a better person and to be a mother. How do you cope with that as a 13-year-old? Do you accept that? What do you do with your feelings, your angry feelings, your embarrassment? She represents the bouncing board of society. “Do I accept my mother? I can see very clearly that everybody else is not accepting my mother.” She’s an absorbing screen through which everybody’s view of her mother was coming through this prism. At the end, was their relationship perfect? No, and I was happy about that.

Chilton: Yeah, because who’s relationship is perfect?

Frederick: Right, exactly. That would have been such a Disney version, without giving it away to people about the ending, but it was a very dynamic arc between Reilly’s character and Kathy, my character. It’s constantly in flux, but it’s real, I think it shows what happens when a child has a parent with mental health issues.

Chilton: I had family members who dealt with mental health issues. The two in particular, they were already showing symptoms before I was born. So, I always knew them as who they were. And when I think back, I spent a lot of time with them. As a child, that was just my normal. I didn’t have any judgment. It was scary, it was sad, I could see the struggle, not just for them, but for my family, but then I saw all these wonderful happy moments. That was my normal.

Frederick: Yeah.

Chilton: When I reflect back now, I find that interesting.

Frederick: What really is normal?

Chilton: Perhaps this is normal, if more people would give voice and not be ashamed of their illness or their friends’ or family’s, it might be a little bit more of the normal. It’s normal to have colds and allergies in the autumn and the spring, so couldn’t it be in the norm that we might have some other illness.

Frederick: I love that way of looking at things! I think that’s really a profound way of looking at things. I agree with you. Once a stigma is removed, especially in a child’s eyes, like you said, that was just a different option of looking at things.

Chilton: I never knew these two family members when they were quote-unquote “healthy.” I never knew that. I only knew them after their symptoms showed up. To me, that was just who they were. When they’d babysit me, we’d do a science project in the kitchen. We’d make coffee, but they say it’s Coca-Cola, and I’d say, “OK.” As a kid, how fun was that? It was like every time I went to their house, it was like, “Let’s pretend,” and I didn’t know that they weren’t pretending.

Frederick: I love that! I love that! I totally hear you with that. One of my closest friends growing up was an older man named Larry, a beautiful, beautiful person. He had severe schizophrenia. The stuff that he did and he said shed so much light onto life for me. We would always have him over doing stuff, hanging out. I remember him sitting in the kitchen with me when my parents were out running errands, and he was like, “Why is everybody always disappearing? People will be in front of you one minute, and then they’re just gone, into thin air.” I knew that that wasn’t exactly—that he was maybe actually visualizing that, but at the same time, it made a lot of sense. I remember one day he said, “Yesterday I just needed to prove to myself that I could work, so I made sevens. I carved a box of sevens.” He had brought over this box of sevens.

Chilton: Aw!

Frederick: And he literally took wood, he carved sevens out of wood, out of cardboard, out of plastic, just to prove to himself that he could work.

Chilton: And that’s when you can celebrate with them, give them a big high-five and go, “Yeah!”

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Frederick: Yeah!

Chilton: But some people will go, “Oh, no, put those away.”

Frederick: Right. And when—like, with a female, when haven’t we PMSed—

Chilton: (laughs)

Frederick: —and just tried to get through the day by doing laundry and eating chocolate and trying not to cry and watching Friends reruns? Is it really that different? No, it’s not. If somebody had told me, “There’s a strange man on your lawn and you shouldn’t be exposed to that,” I might have looked at that and been like, “No.” But I looked at that as something magical, like, “Wow, this is a different way of looking at life!”

Chilton: I think we all, if you really think about it, have had a moment in our lives, if not a few of them, where we do feel like we could just have a nervous breakdown at any moment. We feel like we can’t keep it together. It’s part of being a human being. We’ve all been there to some degree. And if we can remember that, what it feels like, and know that some people feel that way every day, we could have some compassion for that.

Frederick: Exactly.

Chilton: I don’t think we’re as disconnected as we like to think we are. (laughs) From one another.

Frederick: No! Absolutely not! I think that’s where the fear creeps in. The need to keep ourselves together prevents us from maybe saying, “Yeah, I spent all day yesterday making sevens.” (laughs) Hypothetically, you know?

Chilton: You reached out to NAMI?

Frederick: Yeah, I did.

Chilton: Can you talk about that?

Frederick: Certainly. First of all, my parents served on NAMI and throughout my life my parents also were on the North Iowa and started and ran the North Iowa Alliance on Mental Health. They were part of NAMI and a North Iowa subsidiary. While I was doing the film, I wanted to make sure that I was not doing anything inaccurate for bipolar in portraying the character. In the media there are so many mis-portrayals of bipolar or different mental health portrayals.

What I really wanted to do was reach out to NAMI, so I called Mitzi Wright from West Side NAMI in LA. I also contacted once the film was finished some folks in Minneapolis with NAMI. My dream was to get this out and have it recognized as something that people could watch and as a learning tool or a communication tool. My mom had always sent me, being an actress, NAMI stigma busters, essentially there weren’t a lot of films that portrayed or did justice or fostered a positive portrayal of people with mental health issues. So, NAMI stigma busters, I can remember she sent me every other month, and a new film would come out and maybe it would be a horror film or somebody would be a mass murderer and have bipolar or whatnot.

So my goal was with this to have it be endorsed by NAMI, so I had people from NAMI watch it and also I’ve had people who have dealt with bipolar and depression. I’ve been garnering some—not testimonials. That wounds weird, but just having people watch it. They really appreciate the film. They came to our opening festival, our premier festival out here and had a booth in the lobby. We’re playing the film at the national NAMI convention center in December. That’s really for me the tops, fantastic, definitely a dream come true.

Chilton: That is so awesome.

Frederick: It’s really cool.

Chilton: What’s great is that you spoke to them prior.

Tanna Frederick — "Two Ways Home"
Tanna Frederick — “Two Ways Home”

Frederick: Well, yeah. No, I wouldn’t have asked for an endorsement from them before the fact, but again, that was what my fingers were really, really crossed for, to have their stamp of approval. There aren’t a lot of films in the media that portray mental health in a positive light. I’m so, so happy to be on that roster.

Chilton: I’m so happy you made this film. I love what you did. You portrayed mental illness in a positive light.

Frederick: That was really important, to show that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Otherwise, it’s just, it can get dismal.

Chilton: Have you had any negative response from anyone at NAMI about the meds?

Frederick: Not at all. And that was the thing, too, not to get too specific within the film of what meds were being taken, to keep it general. And over the course of seven years, so many different meds have come out. If it erred on the side of anything, it would be a little nonspecific for medication routines. But again, I didn’t want to make it too much of a cause film. I felt like that wouldn’t allow for people to ingest the message about the strength of facing a mental health issue. When you hit people over the head, nobody wants to hear it. I really tried to make that the underlying, the underflowing river underneath the actual story, which is the family and piecing a family back together.

Chilton: You did a very good job with that. If I didn’t know what I was watching, if I turned on Netflix and there it was and I started watching it, it wasn’t like mental health hit you in the face. It was about what you said, this woman and her journey at the beginning, that opening scene is so—powerful. It was just like, “Whoa!” It gets you right in. And it went on and yeah, the mental illness was there, but more importantly the human relationships were there first.

Frederick: Great! I really appreciate that. You know what it’s like when it becomes so much, it’s just like foie gras. You’re like, “I can do whatever issue it’s about.” But having that underneath of what everybody’s dealing with was more realistic to actual life. It’s the thing people don’t want to talk about, but it’s there. Thank you for that.

Chilton: Your father helped with the meds in your community?

Frederick: There weren’t many resources for mental health. There was a great doctor, Jerry O’Brian, a psychiatrist, who, along with my father, who was a pharmacist, and my town. I think there were seven people who were in charge, on the board of directors, of the North Iowa Area Transition Center who would go through the process of taking care individually and giving a lot of individual attention to each of the people who were under their care at the transition center.

My father devised a way of keeping track of medications, it was very common for the really mentally ill to forget to take meds with the frequency and the amount that they needed to take. Basically, it was writing down how many, and they would come in and bring their meds in, it still is quite a small team and very admirable, I think, for all of North Iowa to be taken care of and reaching out. The amount of time they’ve put in for helping out the people, the mentally ill, it was really admirable.

Chilton: Your parents sound amazing.

Frederick: They are! They’re really amazing people!

Chilton: And you’re following in their footsteps. You chose well.

Frederick: (laughs) Thank you!

Melinda Chilton: (laughs)

Frederick: They have their moments. I love them, but they do have their moments, but the stuff they did, they gave their lives to. My mom is a psych nursing professor as well. She trained all the nurses in North Iowa, all the psych nurses and was a teacher for 35 years as well. They’re really cool people. That was their passion.

Chilton: How did you get the role.

Frederick: I was looking for something to do. My parents’ friend gave me the script and said he would really like me to do it. He loosely based it on my grandfather and my aunt and asked me if I would have returned home and hung out with my grandpa and basically taken my grandfather out of the nursing home and helped my grandfather to die on his farm instead of dying in a nursing home. It was a really cool story. It was a cool script.

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Chilton: It’s a great script.

Frederick: It was a powerful script.

Chilton: The writer, Richard Schinnow, is a friend of your parents?

Frederick: Yes.

Chilton: He nailed that script. That was some strong words he gave you.

Frederick: Yeah. He really did.

Chilton: Who was the director?

Frederick: Ron Vignone. He’s a beautiful woman’s director and he was the editor as well, which was great not only economically, (laughs) but artistically because he knew what shots to get in a limited amount of time. And for casting, you had mentioned Rylie, and I really wanted to cast locally. We auditioned over 400 actors from across the state. I wanted to make sure it was authentic but the other thing is, you move out to LA and you see so many people trying to become actors—actually, in Iowa, when people started coming out and making films—I saw Twister being shot in Iowa—And everybody was all excited about these movies and LA coming out and starting to utilize the Iowa landscape. But I remember one of my best friends said, “I got a part in Twister. It’s so amazing!” And basically, it was the side of his head, you can see his profile.

Chilton: But that’s exciting!

Frederick: “You’re famous now! You’re an extra in Twister!” (laughs)

Chilton: Yeah!

Frederick: So, I wanted to show the talent that we have in Iowa.

Chilton: Oh, she was great. I thought she was a seasoned Hollywood girl.

Frederick: They’re all brilliant actors.

Chilton: Are most of your actors local?

Frederick: They were all Iowans except for Tom Bower. He was—

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Chilton: He played your grandpa.

Frederick: He lives in LA, but he had ties. He spent all his summers in Iowa. I made sure they all had an Iowa tie.

Chilton: He was amazing.

Frederick: And Joel West was born in Iowa, but he moved out to LA and was a Calvin Klein underwear model for a while—

Chilton: I could see that.

Frederick: —with Ashley Kutcher. (laughs)

Chilton: He was very pretty.

Frederick: Yeah, he was pretty. (laughs)

Chilton: I’m like, “Do another thing with Junior!” (laughter) It’s an extremely well-done film. I see a lot of indie films and a lot of filmmakers. Some films work. Some, back to the drawing board. Your film is brilliant, very well done, and I don’t give empty compliments. I really, really mean that. I was very, very impressed. That’s why I went in to see who the crew was, the director, the writer. The director was also the editor?

Frederick: Yeah.

Chilton: He told a good story. The editor tells the final story, doesn’t he or she?

Frederick: Absolutely.

Chilton: It has their little stamp on there. The editor is the last one to go with it. Bravo to the editor.

Frederick: Thank you so much. And the seven years that he took carving and carving out to see what he had, what was in that, what came out at the end was just—

Chilton: Good analogy. If I understood correctly, he has anxiety disorder?

Frederick: Yeah. Ron deals with anxiety. There’s one in five people who—and those are the stats. Some say that one in five people deal with a mental health disorder, some say one in two, some say one in three.

Chilton: You mentioned depression. There’s depression and clinical depression. There’s anxiety, and there’s a spectrum in a lot of this when it comes to mental health. There’s less of a spectrum if you have a spinal cord injury and you can’t walk. That’s quite obvious, you have a mobility issue. It’s the way you put the numbers out and what the definition is of the respective condition you’re dealing with.

Frederick: Absolutely. That’s a really good point. Ron has dealt with anxiety. I myself have dealt with clinical depression and anxiety. It’s hard to talk about that. I’ll be right in there with everybody else. I don’t know. It’s a hard and scary thing to talk about. It’s a tough thing.

Chilton: I know. We still have these—whether it’s conscious or unconscious bias, it does exist. When it comes to employment, it’s a huge issue. Do you disclose or not?

Frederick: Yeah.

Tanna Frederick and Melinda Chilton
Tanna Frederick and Melinda Chilton

Chilton: It’s interesting you have a scene in the movie about that, where Kathy is applying for a job at the coffee shop.

Frederick: Oh, right, where she’s just so tired of hiding it that it’s right up front. You’re dealing with stress and clinical depression and bipolar.

Chilton: And the coffee shop owner is like, “OK, let’s give it a try.” Kathy was honest about her stuff. So was the coffee shop owner. She said, “I’m not sure if this will work.” I think she says, “You’re hired,” and you say, “Are you sure?” and the coffee shop owner says, “No, I’m not sure, but I’ll try it.” It’s just two women being honest with each other.

Frederick: Melinda, that’s so funny, because that scene always gets a great laugh of relief from the audience, too, which I never expected. The fact that she just comes out and says it and there’s no holds barred, and she says, “You’re hired,” and then there’s the acknowledgment of that and the refreshingness of—that scene, I’m always surprised that there’s laughter. Really?

Chilton: And then I loved when Cori comes in and pulls her little stunt and the coffee shop owner comes right back.

Frederick: And she’s like, “Oh, yeah! It’d be good if you were nice.” “Well, I hired her because she’s nice.”

Chilton: The writer found so many beautiful moments, and some truths.

Frederick: Thank you so very, very much for saying—for appreciating Two Ways Home.

Chilton: I had my own little private screening this way.

Frederick: I’m really happy that you enjoyed it and appreciated it and you weren’t bored.

Chilton: No, oh, my God, no. The cast was amazing. That Tom Bower is something else.

Frederick: He really is. He’s just an amazing screen actor.

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